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10 NY Counties "Told" To Accomodate Spanish-Speaking Voters

The New York Attorney General's office has sent letters to 10 upstate counties telling them to accommodate Spanish-speaking voters from Puerto Rico as required by federal law. Hudson Valley Bureau Chief  Dave Lucas reports

According to the Associated Press, Rockland, Ulster and Montgomery counties are among 10 Upstate counties that were "warned" by the A-G's office to ensure Spanish-speaking  citizens from Puerto Rico can cast votes.

The warning urges compliance with the Voting Rights Act, which requires jurisdictions having significant numbers of Puerto Rican residents with limited English abilities  to ensure they can vote.

Rockland County Republican Elections Commissioner Louis Babcock  explains the law applies to citizens educated in American flag schools in Puerto Rico who are categorized as limited-English proficient.

Rockland County Democratic Elections Commissioner Ann Marie Kelly says the county has been compliant for years.

The A-G’s letter noted that counties without effective plans could face civil liability.  The A-G identified 10 counties : Erie, Monroe, Rockland, Dutchess, Ulster, Chautauqua, Schenectady, Sullivan, Montgomery and Putnam. One fault cited was that several of the counties failed to provide Spanish translations on their websites.

The Mohawk Valley city of Amsterdam for years has been home to large Hispanic population:, Montgomery County Board of Elections Republican Commissioner Terrence Smith.

The Attorney General's office responded to a request for comment by email, stating - quote - "In order to realize the fundamental American principle of equal justice, voter access for every eligible New Yorker must be protected. Working with our partners in government, we will continue to follow the law, and take action to tear down barriers to full voter participation."

Ulster County Republican Election Commissioner Tom Turco says Ulster was never "warned" about anything.

Schenectady County officials could not be reached - the Associated Press reports that county is taking steps to bring 12 election sites in the city of Schenectady in full compliance by November - but not all measures will be in place in time for the September 13th primary. AP says the website for Schenectady County was quickly updated to add translations of instructions and contact information after officials received a letter on August 9th.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.